Posted by R. John Howe on 04-24-2003 07:03 AM:

The Turkmen Engsi: Doorway to Paradise

Dear folks -

One of the five exhibitions in the hotel at ICOC X (there were five more outside of it) was devoted to Turkmen engsis only.

A great debt is owed to Peter Hoffmeister, who not only curated this exhibition, but in fact, personally, made it possible for it to occur.

As we were planning this exhibition, I composed, and Steve Price kindly put up in an internet "backroom," a virtual version of it that we could share it internationally with those involved. It worked well to make such things concrete, and to enhance communications while planning.

Now that ICOC X is over, we have Peter Hoffmeister's and ICOC's permission to put up this version, so that those who could not attend this conference and/or who have not yet been able to purchase the catalog, can enjoy it too.

By the way, the fact that the engsis in this exhibition come off quite well in sizable images in the ICOC X catalog, is just one reason for buying this volume.

A post such as this, usually results on more discussion, if accompanied by some questions and I will post some in the next day or two to stimulate conversation.

Meanwhile, be sure to notice that this exhibition includes not only some fine material, but also perhaps a first presentation (Danny Shafer will likely treat it shortly in Hali) of the only known photo of a pile Turkmen engsi in use.

Robert Alimi, of the New England Rug Society, who sometimes joins our conversations here on Turkotek, is the person who spotted this in a larger photo. He also labored successfully to crop and enlarge the portion with the engsi on it, so that the rug can be seen quite clearly. Peter Hoffmeister felt early that this is arguably a pile, Tekke engsi with a hatchli design, and many others seem now to agree.

This photo is from the Prokudin-Gorskii Collection at the U.S. Library of Congress. Most of the collection can be seen and downloaded at this site:

Mr. Prokudin-Gorskii was a Russian nobleman and photographer, who developed his own color photography camera and system, and who traveled widely about Russia, in the pre-Soviet period, documenting buildings and people and life. The photo from which our enlarged detail is taken is in the part of the collection that is least well documented. It is not associated with any of the specific trips that Prokudin-Gorskii took, but is thought to have been taken somewhere near Bokhara in the period between 1905 and 1910.

I have talked to a Library of Congress curator responsible for the collection and she indicates that there is no further annotation (where such exists, it is in Russian) to be translated. So it does not seem likely that there is much more information about this photo to discover.

But I digress.

Here for your enjoyment is the engsi-only Turkmen exhibition from ICOC X. As usual, we invite your comments and questions.


R. John Howe